Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween and harvest, 2014

Halloween, 2014

Our famous yearly pumpkins-a bunch of great people died but we highlighted...

Robin Williams-thanks to TRoz and DancinTurtle!!

And then I did Scooby Doo because we dressed up as

Shaggy, Thelma, Fred, Daphne and Scooby
Mystery Inc!  Not perfect, but not bad for almost no money or time.  Shaggy owned everything, Thelma looked for orange socks but couldn't find them, Fred did buy a white sweater and I bleached an old pair of brown tights until they were pink!

Harvest wise this year was a banner year for quince.
The quince is the most unknown fruit I've worked with, usually mistaken for a pear.  Don't be fooled-they are basically inedible raw.

I have a coworker with a bunch of trees-he gave me 50 lbs.  Luckily, they ripen slowly and smell AMAZING.  I walk past the cupboard and open it like 3 times a day just for the scent.

To use them, I cook, drain the cooking liquid to use for jelly, then put the paste through my old fashioned food mill.

Further cook down the paste
 into membrillo.  It is supposed to have the consistency of a gummy candy.  I am not quite there yet, but I have a lot more fruit to practice on.  The versions that are too soft are basically jam-delicious on toast etc.  It is often served with a nice hard cheese-a great combination!

I also got a lot of persimmons.  These are a little tricky because they go from too astringent to too squishy in 24 hours.  Basically I was looking at them twice a day, picking the ripe ones, scooping out the insides and freezing them on the spot.  So far the best use I have found is James Beards Amazing Persimmon Bread.

And of course there are too many peppers again this year.  But we have found that folks like the spicy pickled vegetables.

Not bad, not bad!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bike trip down the California coast, Big Sur to Pismo Beach

Sept 2014  Bike trip down the California coast

Day 3 Big Sur to San Simeon
The tent cabins in Big Sur were pretty awesome, just remember your headlamp!

Interesting side note at the campground is that they have an albino redwood

It just looks a bit dusty until you compare with the regular redwoods in the background.

Leaving Big Sur was the hardest start of the trip.  You get on the road and immediately go up up up.  And it was a long day, so we got up early, when it is cold.  But the beauty of the up up up is that is cancels the cold pretty fast!
We did make it to the top of the hill and the view

 and the ride down makes it totally worth it.

Looking back every once in a while gives you a great perspective-hey, I rode that!

and that!

 and that!

 And the view isn't bad either!

We spotted a large pod of dolphins playing in the water.  It was so clear you could actually follow them swimming through the water.  Check out DancinTurtles blog which will likely have a video.

We also spotted whales-this is the most marine life in the wild I've seen in a day.

Do you see the blue whale?

After most of the day, the last 10 miles or so should have been super easy, it was downhill and we even had the wind at our back.  BUT!  As we went over the county line from Monterey to San Luis Obispo county, the road texture changed.  It had been nice asphalt but became gravel held together with tar.  So bumpy!!  It made me soooo cranky.  We stopped at the Peidras Blancas site where all the elephant seals hang out.

Super cool.  And then I hoped in the car and rode for the last like 6 miles....
In retrospect this really was the best day-I would totally do it again, though maybe south to north so you end the day with a nice downhill and hit the bad road while fresh.  Also, it made me appreciate the professional cyclists who ride the cobblestone races-yikes!

After dinner we caught the sunset-pretty darn awesome!

Day 4, San Simeon to Pismo Beach

I was worried that the road was going to continue to be terrible....but either it is a nicer material or I toughened up overnight.  We got a great start by peddling 5 miles to Cambria and having hearty breakfast!
It was a super foggy morning while we were near the ocean.  
Totally fun and relaxing ride in the fog.

The fog continued all the way to Cayucos.
We stopped by the pier to check out the candy shop.  Some of the people on the trip are obsessed with cinnamon gummy bears :)

  But then we turned inland and it quickly became gently rolling dry hills.

It was a fun ride into San Luis Obispo-if we had been hungry we would have stopped for snacks.  But instead continued on to Pismo Beach.  We stayed quite inland, I had no idea it was such a big town.

But went to dinner out at the beach.  Finally after dinner we hit the beach so folks could get their feet in the ocean we had been seeing so much of.  Again just in time to catch the sunset.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bike trip down the California coast, Santa Cruz to Big Sur

September 2014, Bike trip down the California coast

My slightly crazy friend DancinTurtle declared " I always assumed that some day I would bike across the United States".  Okay, not a lot of people assume that, but I say go for it!  But the planner in me also says, maybe work up to I suggested a bike down the California coast as a warm up, sort of see what you are getting into.  So she invited me along and I thought, why not!  Turns out to have been a great decision-this was an amazing trip. 
Iconic shot of the Bixby bridge on the 1.

Day 1 Santa Cruz to Moss Landing
Look how stoked we are!

The other ladies spent the first day biking over the Santa Cruz mountains.  I was having my hair done that day, so you know, I HAD to skip that part.  I promise I will go back and do it someday.  Anyway, I started biking in Santa Cruz (after we all had a hearty breakfast-see photo above for happy faces). 

What a great way to see the ocean.  Stop anytime and listen to the water, watch the surfers, super nice.

Traveling so close to the ocean, you get up close and personal with the sloughs.  Quite a few birds hang out in and there is very little traffic-great biking.

Going through Watsonville we biked past a couple fields of artichokes.  Also, lettuce, which is clearly the stupidist way to turn water into slightly crunchy water.  Seriously, I hadn't really realized how much land lettuce takes up.  Grow your own-great!  But buying it-not for me.  I now feel I have a legit reason to hate Iceburg lettuce.  
When you bike past strawberry farms where the crushed berries are baking on the side of the road-smells just like strawberry jam. 

Day 2 Moss Landing to Big Sur
Hey look, basically the map of where we are going!

It didn't take long to get to the embarcadero in Monterey.  At this point we could head inland and make it an easy 33 mi day...or go the long way to see more of the ocean.

Yup, that would be the long way.  Immediately we have to stop to look at the sea lions,

and the boats in the fog.  The bike route through town is well marked and lets you stop at all the tourist spots-Cannery Row, the aquarium, and all the food that goes with it.  There are lots of pedestrians, so this is not for the speedy.

You soon get out of town and are winding about on the little ocean front streets.

On a bike, you don't even pay for the famous 17-mile drive.
This is the famous Lone Cypress.  I actually had no idea it was famous until I got there, but yeah, it's cool.

This is how you know it's cool-while we were sitting a busload of tourists arrive, photograph, and get back on the bus.  I am not a fan of the pre-packaged tour though it has its place, I'm just glad I am doing the coast in a different way.

Fancy effects!  But boy is the coast gorgeous!  This was just as the sun was clearing up the clouds.

It was just gorgeous everywhere.  I stopped to get this shot

and also saw this one.  Sad old pool.

After most of the day on the coast, we turned abruptly inland and climbed through a bit of forest to get to our Big Sur campgroup-yeah!!

After dinner at the Fernwood Grill we drove back out to the ocean to see the sunset, but clouds!  Still, a very satisfying day!